The findings of a new study suggest that supplements of magnesium sulfate (MgSO4) given to pregnant women just before delivery may help prevent cerebral palsy, but researchers warn that it has to be given carefully and at the right time.
Scientists from Canada and the U.K. report that giving pregnant women magnesium sulfate between 32 and 34 weeks into their pregnancy results in the best outcomes, reducing the risks of cerebral palsy by 32%, as well as the risks of adverse health effects. However, the researchers warn that there are potential risks.
Magnesium Sulfate has long been linked to prevention of cerebral palsy, but there are concerns over its potential health effects on fetal heart rates, incidents of hypotension for pregnant women and other adverse side effects.
The study, published on January 11 in the medical journal Implementation Science, involved a multifaceted knowledge translation (KT) strategy that looked at clinical practice guidelines, online learning modules, focus groups and surveys. The study involved data on nearly eight thousand expecting mothers.
Researchers found that using information from the KT strategy resulted in 84% increased odds of optimal use during the 32 to 34 week window. It also decreased the risk of underuse. However, the researchers also noted that incidents where magnesium sulfate was given too early or too late also increased. They also found that the need for resuscitation at birth was lower among women who received the supplement; 30%, compared to 40% of infants born to mothers who did not.
“Historically, MgSO4 has been regarded as increasing the risk of neonatal respiratory depression, hypotonia and the need for resuscitation,” the researchers noted. “However, our finding that use of MgSO4 for fetal [neuroprotection] does not increase (but rather is associated with a decrease in) the need for intensive neonatal resuscitation at delivery is consistent with more recent literature that has demonstrated no increase in resuscitation and, in some cases, a decreased need.”
Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that may be attributed to brain damage suffered before, during or shortly after birth. If the child’s brain is deprived of oxygen around the time of birth, it can result in irreversible damage that leaves the child with developmental problems, loss of motor functions and other life-long injuries and disabilities.
While there is no cure for the disorder, early diagnosis may increase the treatment options and the likelihood that the severity of cerebral palsy may be reduced, resulting in permanent improvements in quality of life for the child.
In many cases, cerebral palsy is caused by a birth injury or medical mistake that may have been prevented by the exercise of the proper standards of medical care. In those cases, families may be able to pursue financial compensation for the child through a cerebral palsy malpractice lawsuit.